Homotherium, and extinct genus of machairodontine saber-toothed cats, was native to South America, North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia during the Pliocene era to the Pleistocene era. Homotherium can also be called the scimitar-toothed cat. This cat lived for approximately five million years, most likely dying out around ten thousand years ago. In Africa, Homotherium became extinct around 1.5 million years ago, lasting somewhat longer in Eurasia becoming extinct about 30,000 years ago. There is little evidence of Homotherium in South America alluding to its time of extinction, but it is thought that in North America this large group of cats could have survived until ten thousand years ago.
Many species of Homotherium are recognized today and they have been found in various locations around the world. In the North Sea, one fossil specimen of H. crenatidens was accidentally found. In Venezuela, many fossils have been found dating back to 1.8 million years ago. This shows that, along with Smilodon, Homotherium moved south during the Great American Interchange . These remains created the holotype , or example, of the species Homotherium venezuelensis. In Eurasia, various subspecies have been found including H. nihowanensis, H. nestianus, H. crenatidens, H. ultimum, and H. sainzelli. These species differ in canine shape and body size. Given the range of these big cats, it is thought that they were all part of on species called Homotherium latidens.
In Africa, there are two recognized species called Homotherium hadarensis and Homotherium ethiopicum, each very similar to Eurasian Homotherium species. Another species similar to the African scimitar-toothed cats was found in North America. Originally called Dinobastis , these cats were eventually given the name Homotherium serum, and sites around Texas and Alaska have produced many specimens of Homotherium serum. In southern parts of this cat’s range, it may have lived alongside Smilodon, while in northern areas it was the only scimitar-toothed cat. Although the range of Homotherium was quite large, complete skeletons are a rare find. One famous site holding Homotherium remains is Friesenhahn cave in Texas, which held thirty Homotherium specimens (H. serum), as well as a large number of juvenile mammoth remains and a few dire wolf skeletons.
It is thought that Homotherium may have evolved from another type of saber-toothed cat, called Machairodus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machairodus. The evidence found in Friesenhahn cave in Texas supports that Homotherium was a hunting species, and did not scavenge for its food. Its diet was very particular, most likely consisting of large, planting-eating mammals like mammoths. The specimens found in the cave and around the world suggest that these scimitar-toothed cats hunted in packs, preferring to drag their catch home to eat it. Due to the specialized nature of its diet, it is thought that the extinction of its large mammal prey may have been a cause for Homotherium’s extinction. Homotherium remains are less abundant in North America than Smilodon, showing that these scimitar-toothed cats probably inhabited higher altitudes. Reduced claws, sloping backs, and long limbs suggest that these cats were built for endurance, hunting in open areas like plains.
Homotherium appears in many popular films and shows, including the family film Ice Age. In this movie, it appears once as a rotund member of Soto’s saber-toothed cat group called Lenny. In the film Prehistoric America, it can be seen hunting an American Mastodon, and footage from this show was used in a BBC television show called Monsters We Met. Homotherium played a critical part in Bjorn Kurten’s book, Dance of the Tiger. Known as “black tigers” by the characters in the book, a pair is seen hunting a mammoth calf. The male Homotherium, based on a real Homotheium fossil, has polydactyl us feet.
Image Caption: Homotherium. Credit: Wikipedia